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ESTHER

Introduction:
The book of Esther tells the story of a plot to exterminate the entire Jewish nation in the days of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes), and how it was thwarted.

Name - The book is named for the Jewish orphan girl who became Queen of Persia. Esther is a Persian word which means star.

Author - No author is named in the book. Jewish tradition ascribes authorship to Esther's uncle, Mordecai, one of the book's central characters. Other scholars believe it was written by unidentified scribes who followed Ezra.

Purpose
A. To demonstrate the overruling providence of God.

B. To show that God honored His election of Israel as His covenant people.

C. To illustrate what can happen in a person's life when God is the director.

I. Background of the book.
A. When Cyrus permitted the Jews in exile to return to their homeland, many of them stayed in their new places.
    1. Mordecai, Esther, and thousands of others remained in the territory of the Persians outside Palestine.
    2. This book demonstrates God's presence with those people as well as with the returnees to Judah.
B. We have a good deal of information about King Ahasuerus' reign from non-biblical sources.
    1. He is better known to history by his Greek name, Xerzer King of Persia from 486 to 465 BC.
    2. In the gap between his third (Esther 1:3) and seventh (Esther 2:16) years, he undertook a disastrous invasion of Greece.
C. Date - It must have been written by a Jew who lived in Persia between 450-400 BC.
    1. Archaeology has shown that the author had first hand knowledge of Persian society and architecture during the days of the Persian Empire.
    2. Xerxes reigned over the Persian Empire from 486-465 BC and is usually identified as Ahasuerus.
    3. The English Bible places it after Ezra and Nehemiah, because it shares a Persian background with them.
D. Unusual facts about the book.
    1. It is the only book of Scripture which does not mention the name of God.
    2. It is the only Old Testament book which has not been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran.
    3. It was the last book to be accepted into the Jewish Scriptures.
E. 2 Chronicles 36:20-23.provides a background for the book of Esther.

II. Main messages of the book
A. The book explains the origin of the Jewish Feast of Purim (February/March).

B. The larger theme of the book is the providence of the Almighty God

III. Outline of the book.
A. The feast of Ahasuerus and the divorce of Vashti. (1:1-22)

B. The choice of Esther as Queen. (2:1-23)

C. Haman's plot to destroy Mordecai and the Jews. (3:1-15)

D. Mordecai's persuasion of Esther to intervene. (4:1-17)

E. Esther's successful petition to the King. (5:1-7; 10)

F. The downfall of Haman and the deliverance of the Jews. (8:1-9; 16)

G. The feast of Purim. (9:17-32)

H. Conclusion: The prominence of Mordecai the Jew. (10:1-3)

IV. Key Themes of the book.
A. Trials, no matter how severe, cannot destroy the faith of a true believer.
    1. To shrink from trial is natural.
    2. Trials are meant to strengthen our faith. (1 Peter 4:12; James 1:2-4).
B. God has a plan for your life just as he had for Esther.
    1. Who knows but that God may have called you for just such a time as this?
      a. He may want to use you in some great way.
      b. More likely He wants to use you in the natural events of your life.
      c. God looks for our submission to His will regardless of
      circumstances.
      d. God cannot use us to fulfill His plan for us unless we are willing to heed His call.
    2. This ties to the doctrine of the providence of God.
C. Pride and revenge lead to death. (Proverbs 11:2; 16:18; 29:23).

D. Man's plans can never undo God's purpose
    1. Haman's shrewd plan seemed a sure success.
      a. The law of the Medes and Persians was irrevocable.
      b. But Haman overlooked one thing: The Almighty God.
    2. Never overlook the Almighty.
E. One person who is dedicated to God has great power and influence.

F. Our responsibility is to obey. The results are up to God.

G. Racial prejudice is absolutely wrong

Conclusion:
As Esther shows so clearly, all of history is really His-Story, and all people must see themselves as creatures responsible to a holy God.

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